Daily Archives: February 18, 2020

Why hiring the ‘best’ people produces the least creative results

By Scott E Page – The complexity of modern problems often precludes any one person from fully understanding them. Factors contributing to rising obesity levels, for example, include transportation systems and infrastructure, media, convenience foods, changing social norms, human biology and psychological factors.

Designing an aircraft carrier, to take another example, requires knowledge of nuclear engineering, naval architecture, metallurgy, hydrodynamics, information systems, military protocols, the exercise of modern warfare and, given the long building time, the ability to predict trends in weapon systems.

The multidimensional or layered character of complex problems also undermines the principle of meritocracy: the idea that the ‘best person’ should be hired. There is no best person. When putting together an oncological research team, a biotech company such as Gilead or Genentech would not construct a multiple-choice test and hire the top scorers, or hire people whose resumes score highest according to some performance criteria. Instead, they would seek diversity. They would build a team of people who bring diverse knowledge bases, tools and analytic skills. That team would more likely than not include mathematicians (though not logicians such as Griffeath). And the mathematicians would likely study dynamical systems and differential equations.

Believers in a meritocracy might grant that teams ought to be diverse but then argue that meritocratic principles should apply within each category. Thus the team should consist of the ‘best’ mathematicians, the ‘best’ oncologists, and the ‘best’ biostatisticians from within the pool.

That position suffers from a similar flaw. Even with a knowledge domain, no test or criteria applied to individuals will produce the best team. Each of these domains possesses such depth and breadth, that no test can exist.

Consider the field of neuroscience. Upwards of 50,000 papers were published last year covering various techniques, domains of inquiry and levels of analysis, ranging from molecules and synapses up through networks of neurons. Given that complexity, any attempt to rank a collection of neuroscientists from best to worst, as if they were competitors in the 50-metre butterfly, must fail.

What could be true is that given a specific task and the composition of a particular team, one scientist would be more likely to contribute than another. Optimal hiring depends on context. Optimal teams will be diverse.

Yet the fallacy of meritocracy persists. Corporations, non-profits, governments, universities and even preschools test, score and hire the ‘best’. This all but guarantees not creating the best team.

Ranking people by common criteria produces homogeneity. And when biases creep in, it results in people who look like those making the decisions. That’s not likely to lead to breakthroughs. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Nudge, don’t nag
With such a fine line between a nudge and a nag, it’s important to acknowledge and understand the subtle differences between the two.
By Bill Schaninger, Alexander DiLeonardo and Stephanie Smallets – In recent years, nudging has been hailed as the latest trend in HR and a novel, new scientific management approach. And for good reason: using nudges has improved everything from customer retention and employee safety to organizational commitment and innovation.

When nudges are executed with care, they have remarkable results. However, in many cases there is a misconception about what a nudge actually is – organizations often launch initiatives that either miss the mark or are just reminders in disguise. When that happens, the nudge is actually a nag, and it risks losing its impact and becoming downright annoying. What can you do to ensure you’re using nudges and not nags?

If your nudges check the three boxes below, you’re well on your way.

Before we dive into what makes a good nudge, it’s important to note what a nudge is. According to Harvard professor Cass Sunstein and Nobel prize winner Richard Thaler, a nudge guides choice without removing options or changing incentives. It’s like leading a horse to the water and framing its options such that the horse is empowered to and actively chooses to drink it – rather than eat the grass or lay in the sunshine.

It’s also just as important to highlight what a nudge is not. A nudge is not a reminder to do something, nor is it a call to action. Nudges aren’t mandatory and they don’t have consequences. If you’re constantly reminding or commanding the horse to drink, it’s not a nudge. It’s also not a nudge if the horse isn’t brought to the water the next day for forgoing the water the day before.

A good nudge is all about choice. At its core, nudging is all about choice. The reason why nudging is so impactful is that it gives people control over their destiny: They can choose whether or not they proceed with the “desirable” option.

A good nudge is easy to follow. Good nudges are easy to understand and empower people to be well-informed. Providing irrelevant, complex or confusing information is difficult to process and can make people feel like they were hoodwinked into making the choice.

A good nudge is personal. By far, the best nudges are those that use technology and analytics to tailor them to the audience. Nudges that take into account individuals’ mindsets, preferences and behaviors ensure that the most desirable option overall is also the most desirable option for that specific individual – a true win-win. more>

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Updates from Ciena

The future is near. Is your business network ready to adapt?
New technologies are changing the way we do business, so enterprises cannot be limited by network performance. Learn why your IP network should adapt to support your business’ needs, and not the other way around.
By Vinicius Santos – Legacy business models are disappearing fast, making us almost forget about how things were implemented just a few years ago. The video streaming business is less than ten years old and physically traveling to a store to rent a hard copy of a movie seems like ancient history. Most of us can barely remember when we had to save essential files on in-house data centers servers instead of somewhere in the cloud. Even sharing data using thumb drives is becoming rather “unusual.”

Well-established businesses are facing waves of digital transformation and are trying to align with customers’ expectations while fighting to maintain their current market share from disruptive innovators. At the same time, these disruptive innovators are becoming much faster when moving from niche markets to mainstream and highly lucrative markets, using technology, speed, and agility as their main tools to better serve their targeted markets.

It’s a process where every new technology is a piece of the transformational engine, creating new business models and opportunities that consequently create additional technologies. The wheel of innovation is not just spinning fast, it’s accelerating!

At the forefront of this transformation are technologies such as cloud computing, analytics, edge compute, machine learning, big data, automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT). All of these technology building blocks have a single enabling factor that tends to be neglected in most conversations: connectivity. more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

A plain way to cut smoking rates
By Meredith Lidard Kleeman – Tobacco has been a known carcinogen for more than 50 years, yet cigarettes continue to attract new smokers to the harmful, addictive habit every day. Research suggests that marketing, including package labels and brand logos, plays an important role in encouraging young people to take up smoking and legitimizing the habit for many smokers who are trying to quit—and that policy makers may have a way to change that.

In recent years, some 120 countries have added mandatory pictorial health warnings to packaging, and a handful have passed plain-packaging laws. These efforts to discourage new smokers and reduce tobacco-related disease and deaths appear to be working. Australia, the first country to implement a plain-packaging mandate, in 2012, saw monthly cigarette sales decline after the mandate was introduced, according to research from Chicago Booth’s Pradeep K. Chintagunta, Deakin University’s André Bonfrer, University of New South Wales’s John Roberts, and University of South Australia’s David Corkindale.

The researchers analyzed sales data from before and after Australia implemented the plain-packaging mandate and compared these with data from New Zealand, where the mandate hadn’t yet been imposed (but was in 2018)

Across the world, tobacco products are subject to strict marketing and advertising regulations, but tobacco marketers still control packaging design in most respects. Australia’s plain-packaging mandate presented the researchers with an opportunity to study the role this packaging plays in influencing product sales. more>

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